INDIANAPOLIS – Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now under debate in Congress could trigger what observers and a new report say is an explosion of red tape and bureaucracy for Indiana.

Rules added to SNAP, formerly food stamps, could include much tighter income and work requirements.

Case workers would go from checking work and income a few times a year to every month.

Maxine Thomas, a group leader for Results Indianapolis and a former eligibility specialist with the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration, says simply, “the system would fail.”

“That would be a devastating task to even have to implement, being able to have enough eligibility specialists and case workers to even process those applications in a timely manner,” she points out.

The report from Washington think tank the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities finds states totally unprepared to handle the proposed changes.

Supporters argue the tighter rules would save the government money by forcing people to get jobs.

Thomas says that wouldn’t work. And most, if not all, of any savings would be eaten up by added bureaucracy.

According to the center, four-fifths of adults on SNAP who can work already are employed or between jobs.

A pilot project in West Virginia that imposed new work requirements found it didn’t push more people into the work force it only increased demand at food banks.

And Thomas says Indiana’s feeding programs are barely able to provide anything like a balanced diet as it is.

“There may be a bulk of produce one week or a bulk of bakery items – Danishes and bread,” she points out. “And they have to actually close on certain days because they don’t have enough throughout the week.”

Under the House bill, every unemployed applicant would be referred to work training. But the center’s report finds those state programs would have to go from serving about a quarter million people a month to more than 3 million.

It found the states unprepared for that, as well.

The farm bill, including the changes to SNAP, could be up for a vote in the House toward the end of June.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service – IN